canada africa partner reservation PWHL Minnesota, Montreal and Boston all await the final game – The Hockey Writers – PWHL

PWHL Minnesota, Montreal and Boston all await the final game – The Hockey Writers – PWHL

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On a crazy day in the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), Minnesota missed its chance, Boston took matters into their own hands and won’t be entering the playoffs through the back door, but Minnesota will… if Ottawa loses in regulation tonight of Toronto. Once that result is known, Toronto will have 24 hours to choose its opponent and the play-offs will begin on May 8 in Toronto.

Act 1: Minnesota vs. New York

The day started with Minnesota taking on New York at UBS Arena. To qualify, Minnesota needed just one point to book a spot in the playoffs. In other words, they had to avoid losing out on the regulatory front. New York, already eliminated from the playoffs, came out of the gate ready for a fight. Micah Zandee-Hart’s teammates dictated the game immediately and never relinquished control. The game was Lindsey Post’s first start in the PWHL and it couldn’t have gone better. She was named the game’s first star, stopping 30 of the 32 shots she faced.

Related: PWHL Minnesota’s first line needs to step up in final games

While missing the playoffs wasn’t something New York thought would happen early in the season, they went on an eight-game losing streak that upset them. The losing streak started on February 23 and did not end until March 25. Just before the international break they lost three games in a row. Once eliminated, they played without any pressure and finished the season with two wins. Their consolation prize, getting the first pick in June’s draft, which should help them overcome the lack of postseason action. Additionally, Sarah Fillier, who many believe will be the first pick of the draft, just completed her NCAA career at Princeton University in the neighboring state of New Jersey. It’s almost like it was meant to be that way.

Sarah Fillier Team Canada
Sarah Fillier, Team Canada (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

As for Minnesota, they didn’t expect New York to come out so strong and looked shell-shocked for the rest of the game. As soon as the home side took a two-goal lead, they had the body language of a side that had given up. This lack of interest, when they only needed one point to reach the play-offs, is inexcusable and worrying. Now their fate rests solely on Ottawa’s shoulders. If Emerance Maschmeyer can pull it off and beat Toronto for the fourth time in five meetings, Minnesota will be eliminated. However, should Toronto manage to beat its pet peeve, Minnesota will join in. Time to light a few candles in a church ladies and hope for the best.

Act Two: Montreal vs. Boston

In Boston, Hilary Knight and company decided they would take matters into their own hands. Captain Knight led the attack and scored the first goal against Ann-Renée Desbiens after 15 minutes. Three minutes later, Alina Muller was forgotten in the end and Boston made it 2-0. Early in the second frame, Knight made a fantastic pass to Megan Keller, who put the ball straight into the net to make it 3-0 in Boston. Montreal looked stunned as they headed back to the locker room.

Whatever Kori Cheverie told her players seemed to work well as they roared back and scored three unanswered goals, tying the match with just over three minutes to go. Interestingly, even though Montreal didn’t need a win, Cheverie withdrew its goalkeeper when trailing 3-2, leading to Marie-Philip Poulin’s equalizer. Montreal thought Captain Clutch had done it again and the game would go to overtime, but Boston didn’t give up and scored the winning goal with less than two minutes left. Kaleigh Fratkin defeated Desbiens one last time to propel her team to third place in the standings, securing her spot in the playoffs.

Boston had an interesting year in the first season of the PWHL, they weren’t a force, but at the same time they didn’t go on long losing streaks. Their first pick in the last draft, Alina Muller, did not disappoint, the rookie leading her team in points with 16 in 24 games. It probably won’t be enough to earn her the top rookie title, as Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle has 19 points to her name, as does Toronto’s Emma Maltais. The trade with Minnesota for forward Susanna Tapani was smart, as the new addition quickly became a key part of Boston’s offense. However, it wasn’t a great season for pre-draft free agent and captain Hilary Knight. She was limited to just 11 points in 24 games, as was Team Canada forward Jamie Lee Rattray, who was Boston’s third-round pick. Rattray did not complete the game against Montreal because she fell awkwardly to the ice after a collision on open ice. As for Knight, she stepped up when her team needed her most.

As for Montreal, the season has been a real rollercoaster. The power play struggled early on and until the international break, to be honest. They couldn’t get a single win against Toronto, which quickly became their pet peeve. The defense corps was shaky at best early on and only became stable when Amanda Boulier was added via trade at the deadline in exchange for Tereza Vanisova.

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It took some time to find line combinations that worked, but the many injuries didn’t help. Losing Ann-Sophie Bettez and Dominika Laskova for the rest of the season was a tough blow, but that’s something you have to deal with in professional sports. Laura Stacey led the team in goals with 10 in 23 games and the expanded role she was given on the team allowed fans to discover a top-six Stacey who can do just about anything on the ice. She has incredible speed and a slapshot (even if she sometimes sends it off target).

Meanwhile, fans realized how important Poulin was to the team: when the captain was injured in early March, she missed three games and Montreal lost all three. When Montreal was in their first shootout, Cheverie took the opportunity to send Poulin all alone to Toronto’s Kristen Campbell several times. She received some criticism on social media for doing that, but I expect she would do the same thing again if put in the same situation. Even though she doesn’t lead the league in points, I’m confident she should get the regular season MVP award.

Now the stage is set for the final game of the season as Toronto takes on Ottawa tonight at 7 p.m. The result of that game will ultimately tell us who qualifies between Ottawa and Minnesota, but the matchups will have to wait until Toronto decides who they want to play in the semifinals.